News From CHEST Physician®

Past President’s perspective


 

It’s January 1, 2022, as I write, and my CHEST presidency came to an end last night as the fireworks lit up the sky. With COVID-19 waxing and waning across the United States and around the world, I have been a wartime president. CHEST has not been able to do a number of the things that we would normally have done in person, including that there has not been an in-person CHEST annual meeting during my entire presidency. We have, nonetheless, achieved some important things that I will share with you.

If you’re a typical CHEST member, you probably don’t spend a lot of time wondering about CHEST’s finances, nor should you. Nevertheless, CHEST – your organization – does have to be fiscally responsible if we desire to continue our educational and research missions, and that is the job of your Board of Regents, your presidents, and your professional staff at the CHEST headquarters. I’m happy to tell you that your organization is in healthy financial condition, in spite of a challenging economic environment and, being forced into remote, online annual meetings and board reviews for 2 years. What that means to us and to you is that we get to maintain and improve our full array of educational activities, including our annual meeting, our journal, our board reviews, our hands-on courses at the CHEST headquarters, and our web content. And, we get to accelerate our advocacy activities for our patients and for the clinical folks who care for them (us!). CHEST is primed for emerging from this pandemic stronger, because we have had to make the most of every dollar we have, and more innovative, because that’s how we have done it. We are ready for new ways of interacting and for innovative new ways of delivering education, sponsoring research, fostering networking, and leading in the clinical arena of chest medicine.

During my time as CHEST President, many of us have become progressively more aware of the blatant inequities that continue in society – and, yes, even in medicine. Perhaps more than anything, it both saddens and angers me when anyone values or devalues someone else’s life because of the color of their skin, who they feel attracted to or love, the sex they were born with or their knowledge that nature gave them the wrong physical characteristics for their gender, what physical impairments they have, where they were born, where they were educated - or not, what language is their first language, or what opportunities they were presented with in their lives. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be who and what they are and to be respected for who they are, and everyone deserves the opportunity to excel. The strongest collaborations have diverse constituents with unified goals, and I want for CHEST to be among the strongest of professional collaborations. It has been deeply important to me during my presidency to champion these values, and we have worked hard to make CHEST an inclusive and diverse organization. Much remains to be done, but we did make some good progress this year.

We established a spirometry working group to look at the science around race-based adjustments for normal values, to call out if there are mistakes or omissions in that approach, and to propose the work that needs to be done to correct them. We invited the American Thoracic Society and the Canadian Thoracic Society to join us in this effort. Race is a social construct, not a physiologic principle, and some data suggest that apparent differences in physiology could actually reflect differences in socioeconomic status of study participants. In similar work, our nephrology colleagues demonstrated that apparent differences in normal glomerular filtration rate (GFR) are related to socio-economic and health care access issues; they called for labs to no longer report race-based norms for creatinine and GFR values. Our colleagues believe that race-based GFR norms have harmed patients by promoting delay in treatments aimed at preventing dialysis or by causing delays in the initiation of dialysis. In our world, asbestos companies have argued that African American and other populations of color should receive lower asbestosis settlements on the basis that they began with lower predicted lung function and, therefore, had been less damaged by exposure to asbestos. I am very interested to see our working group’s output. I think it could result in landmark changes in our evaluation and treatment of patients with lung diseases.

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